On Beauty

On Beauty

by Zadie Smith


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On Beauty 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 114 reviews.
EDNurseDee More than 1 year ago
I read this book because it was on the list of 1001 books to read before you die. Though I'm still not sure why it's on that list, I did enjoy the book. I found that I liked most of the characters, though Kiki was my favorite. I think that it showed that no one really is as they appear to be to others. I also think that Zadie Smith's writing style is excellent. I had no trouble whatsoever following the dialogue and keeping up with what was going on. I would recommend this book to friends who like to read something different.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'd heard lots of hype about Zadie Smith, and I was not disappointed with On Beauty. The book's unconventional opening line had me hooked: 'One may as well begin with Jerome's e-mails to his father:' The son is saving his virginity for marriage because of a new-found Christian faith, and his liberal, British father, a professor, is unamused - particularly when Jerome falls in love with the daughter of his arch-nemesis, a black, right-wing conservative who is anti-affirmative action, homosexuality, women's rights...and then we're off. Smith dexterously explores issues of race, class and culture through the lens of a family, name-dropping from Rembrandt to Tupac. This is a book that will set the benchmark for future 'modern classics.' Here's an example of her writing chops: 'From here she could see the strangely melancholic format of Jerome's text, italics and ellipses everywhere. Slanted sails blowing about on perforated seas.'
AoifeMairead More than 1 year ago
She's a great writer and I love this novel. I don't read novels for plot I read them for language and thinking. This is a fine novel.
cransell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend of mine said yesterday that she thought Zadie Smith was one of the great writers of our time - our ages contribution to the canon. I'm never sure what to say about Smith's writing, but I can agree with that.
Panchis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good writer. Not a good book. Takes too much words to say (sometime well) uninteresting things.A systematic criticism of academia liberals (that's fine) from a quite conservative point of view which makes it predictable. A literary mistake.
yooperprof on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zadie Smith's third novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006. This "campus novel" is a homage to the well-crafted work of E.M. Forster, particularly "Howard's End," and also offers knowing nods to Elaine Scarry's brief philosophical essay "On Beauty and Being Just" and Simon Schama's voluminous "Rembrandt's Eyes." The plot, set in the privileged milieu of an east coast Ivy League college, clevely navigates through the shoals of race, politics and aesthetics. There's also a lovely interlude in post-modern and post-racial London. Ultimately, "On Beauty" doesn't reach any new lands, but Smith successfully avoids both the maelstrom of contentiousness and the doldrums of predictability.
francispisani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good writer. Not a good book. Takes too much words to say (sometime well) uninteresting things.A systematic criticism of academia liberals (that's fine) from a quite conservative point of view which makes it predictable. A literary mistake.
tapestry100 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A retelling of Howards End, Smith deftly recasts Forster's characters in today's age and sensibilities. Some bits I found a little off (Carlene's bequest to Kiki, for instance, seemed a little out of place) but overall, as a self-proclaimed "homage" to Howards End, Smith created an admirable work.If you are familiar with Forster's Howards End, I think you'll get more from On Beauty. While it doesn't follow the original exactly, Smith does take enough from Howards End that much of her story will make better sense if you've read the other first. It is interesting to see how Smith reworks some of the social structure. Instead of being a book about social classes and the differences therein, Smith reworked the story to become more a study about liberal versus conservative sensibilities. She still touches on the class differences in several ways, between the students that can't afford to attend college, and the Haitian immigrants who are trying to get fair treatment in the US.To be honest however, by the end of the book I really didn't care what happened to the characters one way or the other. I'm not really sure what happened there, but by the last half dozen or so chapters, I lost all interest in what was happening. The book is still incredibly well written, I think I just grew tired of the constant string of lies and deceit that seemed to stream through the Belsey household. There also seemed to be a lot of build up to the eventual confrontation between the two families, and when it did finally happen, it happened quickly and without much fanfare. It seemed like the book was well-paced right up to the end, and then Smith rushed the story to it's conclusion.I'm not sorry that I read the book; I just think I would have enjoyed a little better pacing at the end of the book.
alaskabookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I actually liked "White Teeth" better, but Smith is an amazing writer; emotionally wise with incredible, intuitive control of words.
jennyo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't even know what to say about this book except that it did live up to its hype (for me, anyway). Great big rollicking tale about love, academia, marriage, friendship, prejudice (in several forms), politics...it's all in there. And all written as an homage to E.M. Forster, whose books I love.Maybe I'll have more to say after my online book group discusses it. In the meantime, I'll just say I very much enjoyed it and now want to go reread Howards End.
daizylee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was one of the crowd who adored Smith's first novel and tolerated her second. This one finds her back in the "amazing" category. An homage to Howard's End, it manages to be that rare thing: a very modern novel, one that feels like it actually takes place in the real world. It is also a joy to read, completely involving. The kind of book that left me feeling happy about books.
jayceebee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought White Teeth was great, but this book is outstanding. I couldn't put it down.
magicmarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've never read Howard's End but now I want to....an utterly addictive yarn
jperkins on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
one of the most highly over-rated books I've ever come across. She has a terrible ear for American slang, for instance, or even for American English (Americans don't say "am I meant to ...", they say "am I supposed to ..."). Minor flaw, but when multiplied, extremely irritating. I found most of her dialogue forced and not believable. A truly terrible book. I wish I hadn't wasted my time.
nicole_a_davis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Zadie Smith maintained her great, witty style, but I foudn the characters to be too mundane and too familiar to be as interesting as the ones in her previous novels.
rrriles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I accidentally took a year-long break about half-way through Zadie Smith's sophomore effort--partly because I got distracted by a season of bookish overabundance, and partly because I initially found its "middle-upper class family drama" plot too pedestrian. Then I picked up Updike's "Rabbit" series again, and remembered just how riveting it can be to watch a "typical" suburban family slowly disintegrate. And riveting it is! Smith is doubtless one of our best living novelists, and it was rare that I found fault with a single sentence of "On Beauty."Between this and her debut, "White Teeth," Smith seems to've established some thematic ruts (i.e. race, class, immigration/assimilation), but fortunately these are topics that will take basically forever to exhaust. Which, as it happens, is about as long as I plan to remain a devout consumer of her prose.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brilliant, funny, and mature. Zadie Smith is endowed with an extraordinary power of observation and a lot of insight for somebody that young. I would call her a fearless realist. She bravely and bluntly tackles different political, racial and intellectual stands and leaves them naked. She is masterful with dialogue and descriptions of social interaction, and really funny. The `almost¿ sex scene at the hotel must be one of the funniest `anti-climax¿ scenes I have ever read. At the same time, she is very human, warm and sympathetic, and going for what is authentic.
Cecilturtle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful novel full of vim and vigour. Smith uses Mamet-like dialogs to create an environment full of ambiguities and unfulfilled desires. So doing, she is able to describe the complexities of being black in a white world. Is it selling out to be rich and educated? Is it impossible to get out of the ghetto? She breaks taboos and very successfully so., Her creative cast of characters and simple unadorned style help to explore fundamental problems of racial, social and economic struggles. An excellent though-provoking piece.
piolo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully, funny. An outstanding novelist with powerful understanding both of what the brain knows and what love knows
kevinashley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another book which captures personalities, places and ways of speaking in just the way that White Teeth did, and on a broader scale. Enjoyable, funny and also sad and frustrating (in the way that the characters are sometimes so wilfully wrong) this definitely makes me feel that I want to read everything Zadie Smith has or will write for some time to come. It's not all at that level of complete perfection - one or two scenes in the US college didn't quite ring true and I felt peculiarly let down by the last chapter or two, but these are not so much flaws as points where the book slips from being excellent to just very good.
lchase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the story but have not finished the book.
Periodista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a terrible writer. Tone-deaf, doesn't know anything about the US academic system, Massachusetts geography or transit, health administrators' salaries, West Indians, teenage boys, teenage boys' diction, affirmative action, 21st century race politics, pacing of novels ...Yes, I have read Howard's End. It doesn't take a genius to copy the idea. What's important is the execution, for Pete's sake.
Erica_W on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An homage to E.M. Forster so cleverly done that even people who haven't read him would enjoy it. Her social commentary and observations are very well done, better than most others I have read. She covers many large issues such as race, immigration, class, education, art, marriage, infidelity, body size, gender, friendship, and the legacy parents can leave for their children without even realizing it. Her writing is both humourous and serious much like real life. She follows the lives of two families and their tenuous relationship over time.
araliaslibrary2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
after a first 50 pages that were only reasonably good, i found myself unable to put the book down. it's simply, but well-written and was A LOT more fun than the sea (which shouldn't have won the booker in 2005). on the other hand 'on beauty' does have two passages that could very well have been nominated for the bad sex awards, and i felt, though everything leading up to it was incredible, the ending was a little too abrupt, i would and have recommend(ed) it to people i like ;)
kerrycarter76 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A so, so interesting read.The story revolves around two families that live in Mass. The reader will find the Belseys family with the main character Howard Belsey an Art professor and from the second family; the Kipps there is Monty Kipps. Monty arrives with his family and begins his work at the same university that Howard is employed. In summary these two characters lock horns on various social issues (family life, marriage, faithfulness, etc.) and their strong views are covered in this story that spans over a one year period.I suspect that so far this sounds boring, but the author did weave this subplot (I say subplot because there seemed to be numerous plots where I'm in the middle or I'm just starting another one) into the story to make it very interesting. I use the word "interesting" loosely because I found it difficult to find a lot of empathy for the host of characters, although Zora with her sexual problems did stand out in my memory.The ending was a let down for me. It left me sort of confused, as if there were more pages to the story that needed to be read. Maybe that was intentional by the author. Overall I'm not sure if I would recommend "On Beauty" to my friends. I guess I would have to be very selective if I did opt to encourage someone to buy the book. Maybe, my best bet would be to advise them to check it out at the library.